mandyhubbard (mandyhubbard) wrote,

Query Workshop-- Day 2

If you missed the first query, you can find it here.

My comments, as before, are in red.

Without further ado:

[TITLE REDACTED] is a 51,000 word young adult novel about an ordinary girl trying to find her way in a beautiful world.

[I think I would move this line to the end. Becuase again, if you put a line up front, it needs to be a big hook.]

Driven by her obsession with the power of the right name, the socially accepted standards of physical beauty, and the neighborhood ‘It’ girls who seem to have it all, Irene Goode navigates through the murky waters of teen life with wit, charm, and the ability to draw attention to herself despite her lack thereof. Growing up in a family of physically unremarkable sisters, Irene is under no illusions about how she is perceived by the world. She simply doesn’t allow that to keep her from pursuing her own dreams. Dreams that include hooking up with the boy next door.

[Whew. That first line is much too wordy. I read it twice and I THINK I get what you're saying, but you're loading a lot of information into it. Right off, "obsession with the power of the right name" threw me. I've never actually known any teens who are obsessed with the "right name" so much as the "right clothes" and the "right hair" and the "right boyfriend." and then the "socially accepted standards of physical beauty' is another too-wordy way of saying: she doesn't feel pretty. And then... "Growing up in a family of physically unremarkable sisters"...again is an awkward way of saying: "Unlike her sisters, Irene is anything but a plain jane. She sticks out. For all the wrong reasons."

I think, in essence, you're trying to be too clever and pack too much into this. It's okay to be simple. Or is this just me? Readers, what do you think? ]

Sam Cassidy is the only guy – the only person – who’s ever taken the time to look beyond the wild hair and public perception of Irene to find her true beauty. And appreciate it. At times frustrated and amused by Irene and her antics, Sam appoints himself her protector following an incident with a rival that puts her in danger of being compromised. But the more time he spends with her, the more Sam realizes that he actually likes to and his sense of obligation to watch out for her transforms into a genuine desire to be with her. She is unlike any of the college girls he’s dated and he decides that he likes that, too.

[See, in your first sentence of this paragraph, you're hinting at something much bigger-- now she's not just "physically unremarkable" but she has wild hair and a bad rep-- rather than telling us, in the first paragraph, that she's different, show us-- describe the hair, what she did to get a bad rep, etc. Also-- what gives him the right to "appoint" himself her guardian? Are they good friends? I need to get a feel for what sort of relationship they have... ] 

But if there’s one thing that Irene and Sam learn during the course of their budding friendship, it’s that the road to happiness is often pitted with challenges and complications. Like their own mixed up feelings for one another, the prospect of playing the title roles in a modernistic high school version of Romeo and Juliet, and the revelation of family secrets.

[What makes them like Romeo and Juliet? ]

Life is anything but boring when you’re a [Title Redacted].

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.


Okay, so here are my overall thoughts here: it seems like you have interesting characters. And I LOVE that this is a realistic romance. I assume it is contemporary, although the line of "danger of being compromised" reminded me of a historical.

The thing is, though, I would really pare down your language and focus in on the essence of the story, bringing in a voice more similar to what your story is told in. The query reads a bit like you used a thesaurus.  And you dont want an agent to think that might be the way you told your story! 

 I think this could benefit from the classic romance novel approach:

Paragraph A: Heroine and her conflict
Paragraph B: Hero and his conflict-- and how it relates to Heroine
Pargraph C: The reasons they can never be together-- and why they cant stop from falling in love anyway.

Almost any YA Romance (and stressing ROMANCE, not just YA with romantic elements) can be pitched in this way. And in fact, if your story lacks a big flashy  hook, this can work especially well. A contemporary, non-hooky romance needs to be all about the characters and emotional conflict.

Here's the cover copy for Simone Elkeles PERFECT CHEMISTRY, which, like yours,is pitched as a modern romeo and juliet:

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.

Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more

See how you get a feel for both characters, and why their romance is doomed from the start? We need to see that in your pitch-- if this is truly a modernized Romeo and Juliet, we need to see how much is at stake for each of them.

So, what say you, dear readers? Suggestions for our mystery query writer?
Tags: query workshop
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